How To Open a Paint Can (and Everything Else You Need to Know)

Updated: Mar. 10, 2024

Learn how to safely and securely detach (and attach) paint can lids without making a mess or ruining the can.

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Paint Cans
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Opening Cans of Paint

When it comes to opening up cans of paint, there are plenty of ways to get the job done. Here are a few tools and methods that will help you detach (and then reattach) the lids on your paint cans without creating too much of a mess or ruining the integrity of the lid’s seal.

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How To Open a Paint Can With a Screwdriver

Wedge the tip of the screwdriver between the can and the lid and then gently pry upwards to break the seal connecting the two parts. Repeat this process several times in different locations around the lid until the lid is fully detached from the can and can be lifted away smoothly with no mess. The most important part of the screwdriver technique is making sure that you don’t accidentally dent or warp the lid so that it can be securely reattached later.

You can use a paint can opener in the same way—or as a power paint stirring attachment for your drill.

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How To Open a Paint Can With a Painter’s Tool

Painter’s tools are strangely shaped little devices that can perform a variety of paint-related tasks—but only if you know how to use each part of the tool. With some painter’s tools claiming to be fourteen tools in one, it’s easy to get a little lost and unsure of how exactly these tools are meant to be used. Luckily, there’s only one part of the painter’s tool that’s actually important when it comes to opening a paint can. Most painter’s tools have a rounded out groove above the hilt (meant for cleaning paint rollers), and above that is a flat section that looks sort of like a hammer head. That’s the part made specifically for opening up paint cans. Use that little section to wedge and pry the lid up from the can, following the same process you would with a screwdriver.

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How Do You Open a Paint Can with Clips?

Paint can clips are small pieces of metal that can be used to ensure that paint cans remain properly sealed. They clip onto the rim of the can and the interior edge of the lid to hold it securely in place and keep the paint inside the can from drying out. Despite the air-tight seal they provide, paint can clips are fairly easy to remove. Just work the head of a small flat-head screwdriver underneath the arch of the clip and then gently lift until the clip pops free.

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close paint can with rag and wood block

How to Close a Paint Can

To close a paint can with no mess, place the lid back on top of the can and cover it with a rag or paper towel. To avoid denting the rim and lid of the can when you pound it closed with a hammer or mallet, lay a wood block sized just larger than the diameter of the paint can across the rag and tap down on the center of the block. Rotate the block a few times, hammering in the center each time to seal the lid. As long as you are gentle with the mallet and don’t dent the lid or the can, this process should be able to be repeated multiple times on the same can without the lid’s seal losing integrity.

Here are some paint can storage tips.

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How Do You Open a Stuck Paint Can Lid?

Once you finish a painting project, it’s usually a good idea to keep a little leftover paint on hand in case you need to touch up any spots later. But if you were a little messy while applying your paint and got some on or around the rim of the can, that residual paint can cause the lid to get firmly stuck in place once you put it back on. There are a few ways to remove a lid that’s become stuck on a paint can. One is to use the thin edge of a paint scraper to pry along the rim of the lid, slicing away at any dried-on paint. If that’s not enough, try applying leverage around the rim of the lid with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, loosening the stuck edges of the lid bit by bit until it comes free.

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paint can lids

How to Dispose of a Paint Can

If you are not planning on saving your leftover paint for later projects, finding out the proper ways to dispose of your extra cans can get a little complicated. In most areas, empty latex paint cans can simply be recycled (check with your local recycling center first). Just leave the lid off to show that the can is actually empty or at least completely dry.

Disposing of oil-based paint cans requires a little more attention. First, they need to be completely empty. If there’s oil-based paint left in a can, get rid of it by painting something that is easily disposable, like leftover newspapers. Then, look up the guidelines for oil-based paint disposal in your area. That will likely direct you to the nearest household hazardous waste drop-off site, which will take your empty paint cans off of your hands.

Got some more potentially hazardous stuff to get rid of? Here’s how to dispose of (almost) everything.

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How Do You Open a 5-Gallon Bucket of Paint?

Turns out, the best way to open a 5-gallon bucket of paint is with a tool specially made to do so—the bucket lid wrench. Most bucket lid wrenches are inexpensive and small, so it’s definitely worth picking one up if you plan on doing any sort of work with 5-gallon paint buckets. The wrench’s claw slips under the lid of the bucket and with a little applied leverage pops it free.